E017 How To Jump From Pharma Industry to Academia? How To Build International Research Projects?

August 30th 2020

Dr Jeffrey C. Glennon’s story is very different from typical career stories in academia. After completing his PhD in neurophysiology at University College Dublin, for nearly 10 years, he was working as a pharmacologist in the pharmaceutical industry post-PhD at Solvay Pharmaceuticals. He developed a successful career in this area but decided to continue his career in academia. In 2010, he returned to academia in the Netherlands and later to Ireland. Today, he works as a Senior Conway Fellow and Assistant Professor at the University College Dublin. He is a neuroscientist linking experimental psychology to biological mechanisms with a track record in the industry and academic settings. His academic interests are in rule-making / rule-breaking processes in the cingulate cortex that govern rational versus emotional decision-making. As a translational neuroscientist, he seeks to implement basic and preclinical efforts into clinical practice relevant to patients. 

On a more fundamental level as an experimental neuropharmacologist interested in disease mechanisms, he has been examining the role of insulin signalling and particularly a class of potassium channels regulating insulin release about behavioural inflexibility. His interest in cross-disciplinary teams has resulted in his leadership as lead-Principal Investigator of a 5.4 mln Eur Dutch public-private consortium (funded by TI-Pharma) encompassing Dutch universities, university hospitals, and pharmaceutical partners. Further, he has led a 4.5M euro EU Commission FP7-funded consortium (MATRICS) on conduct problems. In addition, he has been involved both as a work package leader and partner in six Horizon 2020 / Marie Curie ITN funded / EU Innovative Medicines Initiative (IMI) II consortia focused on neurodevelopmental disorders, adult psychiatry and psychiatric conditions in neurological and somatic disorders (type I myotonic dystrophy and type II diabetes). 

In summary, Jeffrey is an integrator. This pertains to people, research groups, complementary expertise, research ideas, and visions. This ability to integrate across people and topics to create platforms in which they can create new research together. Today, his wide contacts in both academia and industry allow him to build international networks across a range of expertise areas both in academia, in small-medium enterprises (SMEs), and in major Pharma. This has led to novel translational treatment opportunities not only in Pharma but also in robotics. On a personal level, he has an innate curiosity about science and people, what motivates them, and how to develop them both as a person and as strong members of productive, effective multi-disciplinary teams. In this webinar, Jeffrey told us about both his transitions: to the pharmaceutical industry and back. Why did he choose academia after all? What are the pros and cons of this choice? How does he stay positive no matter what? How to create your opportunities? 

Jeffrey’s profile: https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Jeffrey-Glennon

The episode was recorded on August 26th, 2020. This material represents the speaker’s personal views and not the views of their employer(s).

Natalia Bielczyk 00:11 Hello, everyone. Welcome to yet another webinar by Welcome Solutions. And in these webinars, we host PhDs who developed very nice careers in industry. But also, today we have a special guest, Jeffrey Glennon who had a very atypical yet fascinating career path so far. 

Natalia Bielczyk 00:35 Jeffrey first graduated from PhD from the University of Dublin. And then he moved to industry, to the pharmaceutical industry, where he was working for 10 years, almost, as a manager. And he was very successful yet, he found his true calling in science and he decided to come back to academia. And Jeffrey has a very long story behind this and he has many successful international research projects under his belt.

Natalia Bielczyk 01:13 I’ll be most happy to give the floor to Jeffrey, so that he can introduce his story by himself. And lastly, I would like to make one little comment, which is that we know each other with Jeffrey because he was a co-promoter of my PhD. And I have to say that I’m very grateful to Jeffrey, because not many people know that was not my first PhD.

Natalia Bielczyk 01:40 I started a PhD in 2011 and I was fired from my PhD. Jeffrey was the person who saw potential in me, and he arranged another contract, and he gave me another chance. If it wasn’t for him, then I probably wouldn’t have my PhD title today. Thank you for accepting our invitation, Jeffrey. And please tell us about your story in your own words.

Jeffrey C. Glennon 02:10 Thank you very much Natalia. And thank you to all of you for joining this evening. I’m very grateful for the opportunity to join and then to discuss with you a little bit about what has happened to me career-wise. And then to a little bit along, there are things that happened to me that might be able to help someone else. I’m very happy with how career trajectory-wise things have gone for Natalia.

Jeffrey C. Glennon 02:37 As Natalia mentions as well, she was one of those people who I really felt has such a strong potential in terms of science, in terms of insight and thinking, and this sort of person deserves the chance. And then with other test of environments, other test of people with different experiences, then maybe this can work in a different way. And I’m delighted that Natalia earned her PhD after really doing some tremendous work.

Jeffrey C. Glennon 03:04 My own background is a little bit as a neurochemist; my PhD was more in neuropharmacology. But I was registered at a physiology department, within the Faculty of Medicine at the University College Dublin. And then I started my PhD trajectory. And then what happened me was that I had finished my BSc honors in Ireland.

Jeffrey C. Glennon 03:27 You have the rule in Ireland, that if you get a 2.1 or higher, you may go straight to PhD, without doing your Master’s. That’s what happened to me. And then, I was looking for PhD opportunities elsewhere in other countries, other environments. I was really keen to go abroad to learn something new. I was very open to this idea. And then my PhD promoter, then he was an associate professor for many years at Karolinska Institutet working under Urban Ungerstedt.

Jeffrey C. Glennon 03:58 Some of you might know was the guy who pioneered a lot of the microdialysis technique ideas; inserting a very small little artificial blood vessel in the brain, then to collect samples of the axillary fluid space. And then to couple those in real time towards changes in behavior and different things. And I thought, ‘This is wonderful’. This is a way to get an insight into many neurochemical interactions. And in fact, my PhD was on mediodorsal thalamus, medial prefrontal cortical transmission.

Jeffrey C. Glennon 04:30 My supervisor was particularly interested in schizophrenia. And I was very interested in thalamocortical connectivity, and what it meant and the blend of different neurochemistry about what it could do. I was very lucky that he had me funded under the HRB scholarship, which is one of the National Health Research Boards in Ireland funding PhD students.

Jeffrey C. Glennon 04:52 And I hadn’t initially planned on going abroad from Ireland and then ended up staying in Ireland, staying in the same department where I had graduated for my undergraduate studies. And then so for me, it was a little bit of a switch to think, ‘Okay. Mentality. I should do this.’ But there’s this really great opportunity and this great person to work for.

Jeffrey C. Glennon 05:10 And what I loved with my promoter, Dundalk, was the guy who’s Phillip O’Connor. He’s now in the University of Limerick. And then he has infectious enthusiasm for science is what drove me. And I think that infectious enthusiasm and resilience are the two core qualities that he really imparted onto me as a PhD student. Never to give up, always have multiple things going on at the same time. Trying to juggle multiple goals knowing that, if you bet just on one thing, it doesn’t always work out.

Jeffrey C. Glennon 05:43 Try to keep your options open; how to keep your options diverse. And we did many things towards my PhD thesis; not all that we fitted in the end. It was a lot of material that we ended up not using throughout my PhD period.

Jeffrey C. Glennon 05:58 Because microdialysis, at that time, was a very in-technique in terms of neurochemistry than it was much wanted by the pharmaceutical industry. It was a way of looking at changes of imbalances of certain neurotransmitters relative to each other, that might be relevant to different psychiatric conditions. I did three pharmaceutical industry contract work, during my PhD, done for three different companies.

Jeffrey C. Glennon 06:25 And one of those, Solvay Pharmaceuticals in the Netherlands, I happen to meet some of the people then at a meeting in Stony Brook in New York, where I was giving a poster. And they said, ‘Oh, you’re the guy who had done this nice microdialysis work, we’ve got a copy of the report. And we see you’re presenting something else, tell us on what you’re presenting?’

Jeffrey C. Glennon 06:47 And then one of the mentioned me, ‘By the way, we have an opening coming up.’ And then they said, ‘Would you be interested?’ And to be honest with you, I wasn’t really even thinking that way. I was thinking about towards finishing my PhD; I finished off the lab work, still a lot of thesis to be written. And I was mentally prepared to go to the US. And I was really thinking about, ‘Okay, I’m going to switch, spend two or three years in the US, postdoc for a while and then come back.’ That was what was in my head.

Jeffrey C. Glennon 07:17 And then, these wonderful people from Holland had said to me, ‘There might be a position coming up.’ So, I applied, I was just curious. I had very little insight into the pharmaceutical industry, how it worked. I had done contract work for them. They were very open in terms of discussing the science together and then that was a very nice interaction. I was curious about the world.

Jeffrey C. Glennon 07:40 I went to this interview, and then realized that the position was not for a postdoc as I understood it to be, but for a group leader position. I thought initially, I’m not going to get this. I’m too young, I’m too Junior, I was only 25; just finished, done my PhD work. I thought it was going to be people with a lot more experience than me who are going to get this position.

Jeffrey C. Glennon 08:03 I came back from the initial interview, having a good feeling that I had given a good presentation, but not really expecting anything. And then to my surprise, I got a call about a week later, asking me to come back for a second interview. And this time, it was to meet many more senior managers, it was to meet the people who will directly be part of the team that I would guide and supervise.

Jeffrey C. Glennon 08:28 And I thought, ‘Okay, so I’m still in with a chance, maybe I’m down to the final two or three. Let’s see what happens.’ And then I had a wonderful discussion then with the head of the CNS Pharmacology Department at that time. His name was Steve (Stephen) Long; he now works for Astellas. And then many people move from one pharmaceutical company to the other. And then it’s quite a small world and small network.

Jeffrey C. Glennon 08:57 And then, Steve was very open; enjoyed the enthusiasm. I think he saw me as relatively raw starting material, who could be molded into the shape and direction and thinking of the pharmaceutical company was going. At the time, we were doing a lot of work in Psychiatry and Neurology. That was very nice, the discussion. I went back and then thought, ‘Okay, let’s see what happens.’ And then about a week later, I was offered a position.

Jeffrey C. Glennon 09:25 And I thought, ‘Okay, do I want to do this?’ I didn’t really know a lot about the Netherlands besides Amsterdam; I came. Then I came to originally, a totally empty apartment. Absolutely nothing in it. I was sleeping on an air the first few nights. Just getting used to being in a new country, new environment, new language. The Dutch have excellent English. But it still takes a while to wean yourself culture-wise and then starting.

Jeffrey C. Glennon 09:56 And then at the same time, they were very open to the fact that I was able to write up my PhD thesis; I finished all the lab work, but still carry out my job. Essentially, I wrote my thesis in the evening, finishing off my PhD over the time that I start being employed by Solvay. Once my PhD was done, then I started taking on more responsibility, more and more involved in different project team meetings and different projects.

Jeffrey C. Glennon 10:27 Working with many other partners, excellent people. Underbuying for max size, medicinal chemistry; it was really very nice to learn from many different people with many different talents. And that was something from my industry time that I really felt very strongly about. Multidisciplinary teams can achieve a lot together, I need more than any one person on calendar.

Jeffrey C. Glennon 10:50 And so, for me, it was really an eye opener that this is the way to go. I really like this cooperative spirit, this team spirit of, we all have a central focus and let’s achieve something enormous together, something all of us can’t do on our own; and I was the pharmacologist. There is some excellent people on the medicine and chemistry side. There’s some other people intense structure-activity modeling, other people on the genetics bioinformatics; some people belong to toxicology.

Jeffrey C. Glennon 11:22 All targeted towards whether new classes of compounds could eventually make to be in drugs that might be effective for certain indications. And it was very nice to think along and to work there. And initially, I had thought, ‘Do I only come to Holland for two, three years?’, I ended up staying 20. And of that 20, I spent 10 years that Natalia mentioned, within pharma. And then that was a really wonderful experience, I really enjoyed my time in pharma.

Jeffrey C. Glennon 11:51 Solvay was a wonderful company to work for with a family-owned Belgian pharmaceutical company with a division of pharmaceuticals. And subsequently, they sold the pharmaceuticals division to Abbott. And then a sector of habit; then Abdi took that over. And then at that point, I thought, ‘What do I want to do? Do I want to stay in the pharmaceutical industry?’

Jeffrey C. Glennon 12:14 I had discussions with people in Basel about potentially moving within pharma, but to Switzerland. And then, my reason for staying in the Netherlands was I felt comfortable in this culture. I like to country, because at the stage speak the language. And I felt this for me, is home, I like it here. Of course, it influenced me personally at that stage, that I had a long-standing Dutch girlfriend, that we decided to settle down. And that was a big factor in this.

Jeffrey C. Glennon 12:44 For me, then I decided at that stage, to take a switch back then towards academia. And I can tell you a little bit more about that at maybe the next juncture. Natalia maybe if you have questions, or things about the industry period that people might be interested, I’d be happy to take those now.

Natalia Bielczyk 13:03 Thank you so much for a great introduction to your story. First of all, I have two things to say. If you guys are curious about what this music is in the background. I have to tell you; Jeff is just taking a huge risk for us because he is now awaiting his flight to the UK. He’s now waiting at the airport, Schiphol Airport and hope he doesn’t miss his flight.

Natalia Bielczyk 13:39 And secondly, you can ask your questions.

Jeffrey C. Glennon 13:42 Thanks Natalia.

Natalia Bielczyk 13:46 I’m not surprised. I’ve known Jeffrey for a few years. And I’m not surprised with the situation. But good luck Jeffery with running for your flight. And second thing is, guys, if you have questions, please ask your questions in the chat. We are looking at the chat all the time with Jeffrey so if something comes up, we will react. Please ask your questions. And my question would be … I think it’s quite a natural question.

Natalia Bielczyk 14:24 It sounds like you were quite comfortable in industry; you had your comfort zone, so to speak. You are valued there. Probably also paid accordingly and you had your team. How did this come about that you stepped out of this comfort zone? How do you feel about those times at this moment? Do you think that this might be a direction you might re-enter one day? Or do you feel like now you’re on the right track once you stepped into academia, and this is your true calling, and you will never ever get back to industry again?

Jeffrey C. Glennon 15:19 To answer the first point, I mean, I really enjoyed my time in industry. I mean, I think one of the big things about wherever you work, whether it’s an industry or whether it’s in academia, is feeling supported, feeling valued. A feeling which you are working with colleagues that you like, as people. And that had a huge impact on making you feel comfortable that this is the right place for me and we can achieve something nice together.

Jeffrey C. Glennon 15:46 And building that spirit is really an important management skill. It’s something that I learned over time. It took me a while to learn these things, because it’s something that, I made many mistakes during my first year in industry. I’m not ashamed to say that. I was really a very young, naive, inexperienced guy at the start. And it took a good few learning experiences over different things that went right, things that went wrong, just getting feedback.

Jeffrey C. Glennon 16:18 And also, critical feedback from people that you know and trust, and that you rely on. And that you know that are saying it to help make you improve and do better, rather than being critical just to knock you back. And that was really helpful. And I learned so much, and I’m grateful for the people there. But I think it was that supportive environment made me feel so comfortable there. In terms of why I stepped out of that comfort zone was simply pragmatic.

Jeffrey C. Glennon 16:45 I initially had been orientating towards staying in the Netherlands. Solvay had been taken over by Abbott. They had decided that a lot of the research activities would no longer stay in Weesp, just outside Amsterdam where I worked. That would be done elsewhere and that was okay. And then the other leading company that was in the Netherlands at the time, besides some small biotech and startups, was Organon.

Jeffrey C. Glennon 17:16 And Organon was taken over by MSD; done eventually, first by Schering Plough, and then by MSD. But they had already taken the strategic decision that their neuroscience activities were located in Scotland. Women’s Health was located in the Netherlands. Essentially, there was no real other alternative large pharmaceutical company doing neuroscience being in the Netherlands. And that’s why I opted, I thought, ‘I want to stay in neuroscience, I want to stay in the Netherlands.’

Jeffrey C. Glennon 17:50 And I also had a feeling that there were some academic projects that I wanted to work on. I was lucky to have a lot of freedom in Solvay to work on some really nice science. But then it’s also a price to pay for that, in terms of confidentiality. You cannot always publish on some of those things which are simply not allowed at the latter stage. And that’s okay. But it also meant that there was some research that I wanted to do. And probably the better place to do that was to come back to academia.

Jeffrey C. Glennon 18:20 I was very lucky that there was a position arising in academia; and I have to say it was a little bit of a funny situation. Because originally, the positions that I had applied for, as I had a lot of management experience. But coming back to academia is kind of hard. Because you don’t have the publication track record that somebody with several postdocs behind them has.

Jeffrey C. Glennon 18:48 It means that it’s hard to show people in academia, what your skills are and what you can do. They know you can do management stuff. And I know that’s not a skill that maybe many people with a postdoc stage maybe have developed. So, they know about that. And then, I had applied for the managing director of the Donders Centre for Neuroscience. And then, I got down to the final two.

Jeffrey C. Glennon 19:15 And it was myself and another colleague at a time, Serene Strafeland left in the running. And in the end, they chose Serene. But they had said to me, ‘Listen, we like what you do, and our feeling was in talking to you. You’re so driven by the science, that if you had taken this position, we’re worried about whether you could do the management or whether you would get a little bit bored and up a little bit drawn towards wanting to do science.’

Jeffrey C. Glennon 19:42 And I said, ‘Well, okay. If there is a position here to fits with me, then give me the opportunity to apply for grants and create my own academic traditional and own career here.’ And that they did. Initially, I took on a position for 50% of time on a one-year contract, working as a project manager. So, something totally different.

Jeffrey C. Glennon 20:08 It was the time of the financial crisis; it was absolutely the worst time in the world to be looking for a job. Nobody was hiring at all. Nobody had any money at all. It was a terrible time to be orientating and looking for a new position. I took on that saying that, ‘Okay, I got to work full-time at this, but I’m only getting paid half time. But I’m going to prove to them how good I am.’ And so, then what happened was, they switched to paying me full-time.

Jeffrey C. Glennon 20:39 They switch for that one-year contract to a two-year contract to a five-year contract. And I start bringing in a lot of grant money. And then, precisely that idea of forming multidisciplinary teams, seeing angles and opportunities between different teams and different talents, and what they can offer together. EU consortia that I subsequently then applied for and built. And in the end, I brought in something like 3.7-million-euro worth of funding over the space of 8 years in academia, which is not bad as a PI.

Jeffrey C. Glennon 21:22 I was very fortunate that I had a permanent contract, then as a result of being so successful, funding-wise and then build up a research group. And that research group, then ended up being on something that interested me, which was behavior flexibility. Why do people make the choices that they do, under what conditions? Why are some people more flexible than others? What drives that? What are the brain regions that drive us or the molecular substrates that drive us?

Jeffrey C. Glennon 21:53 And in fact, I recently have a position, then from Nijmegen now back to Ireland to my old alma mater, to University College Dublin. Where I’m now resetting up my lab there, then to answer exactly the same question. But then there is a whole pile of excellent people with other expertise that I know nothing about.

Jeffrey C. Glennon 22:13 But I will learn from them, and they will learn from me. And I think that partnership, I think is so powerful. In that way, I’m very happy with the opportunity from University College Dublin. And I think it’s going to be enormously exciting what it brings up next few years.

Natalia Bielczyk 22:30 Fantastic, Jeffrey. Let us know, ask a question from the audience from Rohit. ‘Hi, Jeffrey. This is Rohit from Delft. How do you cope with various cultures when working in Pan-European projects?

Jeffrey C. Glennon 22:48 How do you work with …? Say the question again, Natalia?

Natalia Bielczyk 22:52 How do you cope with various cultures, various nationalities, when working in Pan-European projects?

Jeffrey C. Glennon 23:01 In terms of dealing with the different cultures, I think you have to be first of all respectful. Try to understand where somebody is coming from, and trying to understand their mindset. And the only way you get to do that is really by talking to people a lot. There are so many times that I talk to people, at the posters, at dinners, during the coffee break. You need to really understand people and to really understand where they’re coming from, what’s important for them and what’s driving them.

Jeffrey C. Glennon 23:32 And if you understand that, you can a little bit understand then how best to help them and how they can best help you. And I think it’s really more in terms of communication, but I think there is … first thing is trust and respect. Done in terms of the cultures. Idea is not that one is better, one is worse. But there you both have something valuable to bring to the table and something to learn from each other.

Jeffrey C. Glennon 23:57 Right now, some of my most valuable collaboration partners are in Italy, in Spain, some in France, an excellent collaborator in Norway. And these are all different very approaches to life. Very different approaches to science, very different work cultures or work he tosses. And you just have to be flexible enough to know, how can I work best with these people and not necessarily impose your norms and values and your culture on top of somebody else on their expectations. And I find that tends to work.

Natalia Bielczyk 24:37 Cool. What do you think about Polish people Jeffrey? This a double bottom question, so beware.

Jeffrey C. Glennon 24:48 You know, I found Polish people very pleasant to work with; extremely hard working. I think what I like is that, I know you can’t really generalize across a whole nationality. But in my experience so far is that people are very… they’re a little bit more serious, more practical approach to life. But at the same time, I still think can be fun. I think that’s how you have quite a large Polish ex-pat community in Ireland. I think the Irish and the Polish get on pretty well.

Natalia Bielczyk 25:26 I think you would agree with me that Polish people are prolific in one way or another. But anyways, I have another question now and it’s a little bit different topic. But recently, I was thinking a lot about factors for success in different work environments. And I would like to share some thoughts with you about what I think about academia, since I spent ideas there myself, and I would like to also hear what you think about this.

Natalia Bielczyk 25:56 I think that there is more than one way of becoming a successful professor in academia; at least three different ways. You can do it as a craftsman as someone who has a certain skill and expertise in narrow discipline of science, is very strategic with projects. And designs projects exactly within that narrow scope, and place the probabilities so that some of these projects always work. Some of them are high-risk high-reward, some of them are low-risk low-reward. But after all, there is some number of papers with some number of prestige and results.

Natalia Bielczyk 26:37 And that person is usually loyal to a certain number of close collaborators over a period of time. Or a second pathway is to be a politician. Someone who is only into people and mostly combines projects, and is very much into looking at problems from a helicopter point of view. And it’s mostly basically getting an overview of problems and very well informed, and usually picking the most influential subjects and the most impactful subjects, and very good with also avoiding conflicts and bringing people together.

Natalia Bielczyk 27:20 Or you can do science as an artist. Someone who is a bit more chaotic, maybe for the outsiders. Someone who risks more, someone who combines different topics together. Someone who is, on one hand, a bit unpredictable because their ideas are out of the box. On the other hand, quite charismatic, they can also persuade other people to these ideas.

Natalia Bielczyk 27:46 And I think, when I worked with you, I think you’re like the closest to this artist type, and risking a lot. And I would like to ask you. Have you ever thought about if your life maybe would be very much easier, as a researcher, if you were more of a craftsman and if you were more like just going along, like one line of research, rather than risking and combining different topics together?

Natalia Bielczyk 28:17 Because I know that, you know, you have a lot of achievements, but you also had to go through a lot of pain in science because of your affinity to risk and go out of the box. I would like to hear your thoughts about that from your own perspective.

Jeffrey C. Glennon 28:35 It’s a really good question. I mean, it’s a different attitude towards what you want to work on and how you want to achieve it. It’s also very dependent on finding a set of people who can buy into working in that way together, and who will learn how to risk together, or how to do it. I mean, the traditional thing, as you said Natalia, is really focus on one thing, content-wise, or one thing technique-wise.

Jeffrey C. Glennon 29:04 Do it to death, become the master of it, make yourself known as the expert on this and publish only on that, and have an extremely narrow focus. And that works for most people. And to be honest with you, I think, for most academics, it’s their traditional idea of what a professor should be about. And I think the you can do that, and I think then that is also good. I think the risk is on what I see the danger at our approaches is that you have many isolated islands. Isolated islands of knowledge, that don’t connect together.

Jeffrey C. Glennon 29:44 And I think in terms of science, we can either make small jumps or big jumps; and that the small jumps we make by that first approach. Doing something to death, building on a step by step by step by step and then us great. And then, the third approach is a little bit the risk; it’s a calculated risk. I don’t take stupid risks, because I’m very strategic in my choices as to what to work on, and what things combine together will really work. I’m realistic enough to know about what should work or shouldn’t.

Jeffrey C. Glennon 30:21 But I think then the beauty of combining something together or really taking bigger risks, is that you can really make something special together, where you can make those bigger jumps and also bigger jumps together. Those bigger jumps just don’t have to be on your own. And then in reality, it’s only the very big labs with like 20-30 people, them working solidly on one single thing, they can make massive jumps together to publish really high impact papers on that topic. And that’s hard, and also takes a lot of time and money, in terms of investment and to generate.

Jeffrey C. Glennon 31:01 And so, I think it depends on the environment. I think different environments are open to different things. I think that’s okay. I’m personally, quite happy with how my career has worked out so far, in terms of the ideas of different groups of people. From different environments, I’ve learned different things. I’ve learned a lot of medicine and chemistry, collaborative teamwork spurs within time in pharma. At my time at Radboud UMC in Nijmegen, I learned a lot about child psychiatry.

Jeffrey C. Glennon 31:31 I knew a bit about adult psychiatry from my time in industry, I knew a lot on pharmacology. And I really learned a lot about child psychiatry during that time. I also learned some things about neurology that I didn’t know from excellent people like Bill Lidell from England, who were privileged to work with. And then I really enjoyed my time there, but you take different things from different environment and experiences.

Jeffrey C. Glennon 31:57 I think it’s definitely the safer option, option number one. But it’s a question of what you want from life. And then, I don’t want to be sitting on my rocking chair, when I’m 85. And think, ‘I could have done more with my life, I could have done something really interesting. And now shit, I have some rubbish disease, and I’m going to be dead within two years with a terminal diagnosis.’

Jeffrey C. Glennon 32:28 I don’t want to be at that stage regrowing anything. I want to be at a stage of saying, ‘I followed my heart, I went with what I felt with was right. I worked with the people that I felt was right. And I felt that I took strategic risks regarding building things, which I taught will make scientific sense and make science better. And I hope I’m at the stage of 85 on my rocking chair, looking back and basically saying, ‘That was worth it.’

Jeffrey C. Glennon 32:56 And I’m going to say, ‘Well, something’s paid off. Some things didn’t. But then that’s okay. I can live with that.’ And I think if you don’t take chances, you don’t come very far. But take smart chances.

Natalia Bielczyk 33:12 Okay, great. And I have to say also that you will never know what the outcome will be useful in the future. I have to say, when I was a PhD candidate, I was employed in two labs, 50/50. And one of these two labs was Jeffrey’s lab and the other one was fMRI lab. It was a very different topic from most of Jeffrey’s operations. My PhD was about fMRI stuff, so I was mostly occupied with fMRI research. Yet, Jeffrey still expected me at his lab meetings every week.

Natalia Bielczyk 33:50 And for some time, I was really thinking, you know, ‘What do I do there?’ Like all these people talking about some biochemistry and translational psychiatry. I’m an outlier here, I would rather keep on working on my PhD right now. I was a little bit hesitant if I should spend my time sitting in these meetings. But now once I went to industry, and I started a company and I’m now creating a recruitment program for PhDs.

Natalia Bielczyk 34:25 And now I’m grateful that I could sit there. Because I learned a little bit about the basics of pharmaceutical research. And now I’m familiar to basic methods such as western blotting and others. Otherwise, I would have ever heard about this. And at least have some rough overview of the methods being used in biotech and pharma, and I can start from there.

Natalia Bielczyk 34:55 I would’ve never been able to predict a few years ago that this will be useful knowledge for me. But now in a completely different context it is. You never know what life will bring. It’s sometimes good to also go out of your comfort zone.

Jeffrey C. Glennon 35:15 You know, Natalia, I think that broadness knowledge is really handy to have. It gives you the opportunity with that knowledge to see different possibilities that you might not have been aware of with other kinds of knowledge, if you didn’t have that. With that broad knowledge as a generalist, rather than a specialist, I think it’s really handy to see those opportunities, and particularly to network.

Jeffrey C. Glennon 35:38 And it’s the one bit of advice I will give anyone is, network, network, network, network, network. It’s sometimes more valuable than your continent knowledge. And it’s really important in terms of making those connections already at a very early stage, career-wise. Because you never know where things can come around. I remember reaching out to somebody there the other day, which was somebody who was also a PhD student at the same time I was doing my PhD.

Jeffrey C. Glennon 36:07 And that was like years ago. And only now that connection is coming back and saying, ‘Hey, are you doing something in this? It would be interesting.’, that sort of knowledge come back. But i think that sort of broad network of connections is really important. Talk to as many people in different disciplines and learn a little bit about the things. One of the things I end up being is, I end up being a sort of a medium to different people who speak very different languages then get to talk to each other.

Jeffrey C. Glennon 36:39 And I understand a little bit about their worlds. I don’t pretend to be an expert in some specialist topic that they are really an expert in. But I know enough to be able to talk with them. They know enough to talk with me. And I’m also able to talk to the other guy who they can’t talk to yet. Because their languages are just completely different. I just happen to know a little bit of their language.

Jeffrey C. Glennon 36:54 And it’s tough, knowing a little bit of languages of other things that enables you to make these connections and bridges between people. And I think it’s a really valuable skill to have. To give you an example, something that I haven’t shared with so many people yet., But you might be familiar with the Human Brain Project. And the Human Brain Project is a is a massive undertaking, with a massive amount of budget from the European Union; one of the big flagship projects.

Jeffrey C. Glennon 37:21 And it’s now been spearheaded into a whole new European organization called EBRAINS, which is going to be a little bit like CERN. And I got shortlisted for the director general position of this organization.

Natalia Bielczyk 37:37 Wait, wait, wait, wait. We have to celebrate.

Jeffrey C. Glennon 37:39 I got shortlisted for interview, I had the interview, I didn’t get the position. But I think it was an enormous privilege, at least, to get to the shortlist of handful of people. And then I got to talk to really senior people at the interview stage, then in Geneva. And then it was really very nice to hear to how they think, what they were thinking about, what things they were looking for.

Jeffrey C. Glennon 38:12 But I thought it was so nice that I had the opportunity, at least to be considered just for the director general position. Because they saw something in my skill set, or maybe the broadness of knowledge in terms of knowledge and neuroscience, which they felt just might be useful. Also, the idea in terms of connecting different worlds and different people, in terms of being able to talk to each other and create something new. And also, maybe some of the ideas in terms of management characteristics I have picked up from industry.

Natalia Bielczyk 38:42 Shall we celebrate the fact that you were in the final round of the interviews. Because I’m prepared to celebrate. Congratulations.

Jeffrey C. Glennon 38:57 For me, I decided then to focus in my career within academia, staying within academia within the University College of Nijmegen; I really like what I’m doing there. I really like the great people that are there. And the fact that they’re excellent people in terms of immunologist people, people working on diabetes as well, that are doing really excellent research that I know little about, but I’m willing to learn a lot from.

Jeffrey C. Glennon 39:24 I think I’m looking forward to next five years in terms of doing something really fun in terms of the science there. think that’s going to be really nice to do. But I think it’s nice to be recognized, at least by others that, ‘Hey, you have something to bring to the table.’

Natalia Bielczyk 39:42 Sorry. Shall we keep it moving on? Because we still have a lot of questions and I know that you are in a hurry. If you could now move towards Nick’s question. He asked, ‘Nice to know about your exciting career journey. Jeffrey, can you expand a bit on how you negotiate a position, like the way you did successfully at Donders? Were you prepared in every detail, in retrospect, something you will like to take care of in retrospect?

Jeffrey C. Glennon 40:18 In the case of the situation at the Donders, I said, I applied for the managing director position of the Donders Centre for Neuroscience; and then got down to the final two. They saw you had management skills. And then crucially, they had brought in a European Union project, and basically said, ‘You have managed large consortia before.’ Because at that time, I had managed a Dutch government-funded industry academic consortium, with a budget of about four and a half million.

Jeffrey C. Glennon 40:51 No, a little bit more I think, 5.6 million, something like that. And then basically said, ‘You know, what you’re doing regarding managing the scale of budgets, and then the scale of people.’ And then typically in a consortium, there’s maybe 20 partners. On theirs is about maybe 40-50-60 people actively working on the project over the course of five years. And so, they said, ‘We like the idea that you have this experience, and maybe you can help us, in terms of getting this EU project going.’ And so, that was enormously fun to do.

Jeffrey C. Glennon 41:26 But then the discussion that I had about them was that, ‘Look, you are only employing me initially for 50% time. You had a 50% of time on developing an academic career.’ Initially, they thought, ‘Well, we don’t have a funding open, for an academic position.’ I said, ‘Well, okay, if I can bring the funding …’, basically fund myself from my own grants, ‘… then we can get off the ground’. I had to apply for grants.

Jeffrey C. Glennon 41:54 My good collaborator and colleague, Jan Buitelaar in Nijmegen also had done other grants as well and said, ‘Hey, let me help you as well, develop in this direction as well.’ And so I think together, we formed a very powerful team in terms of as a preclinical scientist and as a clinician, then doing some really excellent work together.

Jeffrey C. Glennon 42:17 But that discussion, that negotiation that you’re asking about, really was about creating an opportunity for yourself. And that one side, could create the opportunity together with them, then they were more than happy to progress it and to follow through. I think it’s a matter of sometimes working for something, maybe not seeing some immediate reward, but then hoping for a bigger reward later on. And I think that is worked, speed work of trying to achieve that. I think that’s probably the best answer, I can give it a stage.

Natalia Bielczyk 42:52 Great. And I totally agree. It’s best not to wait for a lucky Strike, but rather take your fate in your own hands. I think it’s quite an entrepreneurial approach as well, what you represent.

Jeffrey C. Glennon 43:08 I mean, for example, the EU projects, I got questions from people so many times; we’re frustrated, we would like to be involved, we have this great expertise and nobody thinks about us. They instilled, work with their friends and involved their friends in these EU projects. And I tell them, ‘Why do you leave it up to chance with other people, take it in your own hands, and you lead a project yourself or a subsidy request. And you form your own consortium.’

Jeffrey C. Glennon 43:36 I mean, what happened in the case of my first consortium that worked Jan Buitelaar in Nijmegen, is we had wanted to be part of another consortium; we didn’t feel really involved. We basically witnessed a case of 10 days, and I remember it was very close to deadline. To create a new grant within 10 days it was hell, but we managed to do it. Because I got half the team, Jan brought half the team and then we got to the second round. And then, we did a really good job on the full proposal, and then we got funded.

Jeffrey C. Glennon 44:09 And then that grant tactics, which was all about behavior, flexibility, and compulsive behavior on cost disorder traits, like between OCD and autism and so on; and its mechanisms. Then that was really a lot of work to work on. But it would not have happened and we wouldn’t have the opportunity to do that, if we have not taken the ball into our own hands and said, ‘Let’s go for this.’

Jeffrey C. Glennon 44:31 And I think you have to do that. There’s also something about achieving well in academia, or being a little bit of your own entrepreneur. You have to be a little bit your own CEO. And even being a PI in academia is very similar nowadays, compared two years ago, to being a CEO. You have to be a jack of all trades. You have to know something about managing people, know something about content.

Jeffrey C. Glennon 44:56 Know something about contracts. know something about the regulations done regarding maybe for Regulatory Affairs. Know something about you who you have to contact for the admin side, know something about HR. It’s a multifaceted job.

Natalia Bielczyk 45:13 Yeah, I totally agree. You have to be one orchestra in science. And let me ask you one more question from my side, which is … You are unbelievably positive as a person. I don’t think you would ever even be able to be angry or anything like it even if you wanted to. That’s my impression after these few years. And I remember even like just a personal anecdote just a few years back.

Jeffrey C. Glennon 45:43 I’m a big U2 fan.

Natalia Bielczyk 45:43 My wedding was called off. And I remember, I stormed into the Jeffrey’s office and the Jeffrey said, ‘Come on, just sit down. Chill out, let’s put some music and just come back to the project don’t cry.’ He put on U2. I think it was “With or without you”, which is like the saddest song ever. I started crying like crazy.

Natalia Bielczyk 45:50 Jeffrey is like, ‘Why are you crying? I don’t get it.’ It was sweet. I think Jeffrey is really the most positive person ever. How can you keep this positive attitude like, despite all the crap that has come, you know, that is sometimes happening; and the problems arise, and like really big problems sometimes? How do you keep your mental ‘hygiene’?

Jeffrey C. Glennon 46:39 I think you have to be with an attitude of, I keep looking forward. No matter what knocks your guts, and everybody got knocks. You have to get up in the morning, put your foot forward and say, ‘I’m not going to let this get me down. I’m going to go and fight this. I’m going to come along, and I’m going to really show everybody I can achieve this and this, and I can develop that.’

Jeffrey C. Glennon 47:06 And you have to have a certain amount of resilience of not giving up. And I think that’s really important in science. I mean, science is sometimes frustrating at the Brexit times. I love it, otherwise, I wouldn’t do it. But there’s times when you say, ‘This is a lot of pain’, and a really a lot of pain for very little satisfaction. And I could have this much pain and be far better paid or do some other job if I wanted to. And you still say, ‘you do it because you love it, you do it because you’re curious.’

Jeffrey C. Glennon 47:40 And you have to have a motivation to drive you to say, ‘I really want to achieve this. And I only to want to do this.’ And I think you have to have that sort of positivity. It’s important to have some balance in your life. Take time out for yourself, be kind to yourself, care about yourself, be good to you and don’t let other people drag you down. There’s a lot of negative people in the world. Don’t listen to them, they will only pull you down.

Jeffrey C. Glennon 48:07 It’s important to stay focused in your own goal. But also, be realistic enough to know if this is achievable. And your close friends, and the people you trust to listen to them and say, ‘Listen, this is not working, or you should do this thing differently,’ and that’s really good. But be resilient enough to believe in yourself. There’s a lot of people out there who … There are different people with different traits in different situations, and that might not always help you.

Jeffrey C. Glennon 48:44 And it’s up to you to be strong enough to say, ‘No, I don’t choose for this, I choose for something else.’ And ultimately, you’re choosing for you. You’re choosing for you that there’s going to be an 85-year-old sitting in on a rocking chair, and you want to know, ‘Do I regret my life or not?’ And believe me, you don’t want to.

Natalia Bielczyk 49:03 Fantastic. I promise to you, Jeffrey, that will finish this webinar around 10 to 8 because of your flight. I would like to keep this promise. And I would otherwise, be super happy if I could ask you more questions, but I know that you’re in a hurry today. Let us slowly come to the end of this webinar. Man, that’s a pity but we have to.

Natalia Bielczyk 49:31 One last question since you’re very collaborative, but unfortunately, you don’t use LinkedIn if I’m correct and you don’t use Twitter. If anyone who watches this episode wants to contact you and ask you more questions, how can they reach you best?

Jeffrey C. Glennon 49:49 I think the easiest thing is to send me an email. That can be on my two emails on jakeglennon77th@outlook.com, or my main institutional email which is now jeffrey.glennon@ucd.ie. I’d be very happy to enter to dialogue and then to arrange a Skype session or a Zoom call with anybody who feels I might be able to help them.

Natalia Bielczyk 50:20 Okay, fantastic. I’m very glad that we had you today Jeffrey. I’m very happy to see you again and see you smiling just like always, and good luck in Ireland. Hope to hear more about your scientific success. Hope that next time we can celebrate you becoming the head of the Human Brain Project or whatever it becomes. I’m not that much up to date but good luck. Thank you so much. Thank you everyone for watching and have a nice evening everyone. And thank you so much, Jeffrey, for coming.

Jeffrey C. Glennon 51:00 Okay, thank you very much Natalia. Thank you everybody for being present. Bye for now.

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Please cite as:

Bielczyk, N. (2020, August 30th). E017 How To Jump From Pharma Industry to Academia? How To Build International Research Projects? Retrieved from https://ontologyofvalue.com/career-development-strategies-e017-how-to-jump-from-pharma-industry-to-academia-how-to-build-international-research-projects/

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